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Downeast Humanists and Freethinkers Message Board › Winter Solstice float: Happy Winter Solstice from Downeast Humanists & F

Winter Solstice float: Happy Winter Solstice from Downeast Humanists & Freethinkers

Nancy G.
user 8856801
Group Organizer
Bar Harbor, ME
Post #: 323
Abbie and everyone, here is a draft of a proposed handout. Everyone I am sure will have different ideas about how it should be worded, edited, lengthened or shortened, but here goes:
**************************************­****************************************­****
Celebrations of the Winter Solstice and the History of the Christmas Tree

In the Northern Hemisphere, the shortest day and the longest night of the year falls on Dec. 21 or Dec. 22 and is called the winter solstice. Long ago people didn’t know that the earth rotates on its axis which is permanently tilted with respect to the earth’s plane of revolution around the sun, thus producing the seasons. In the Northern Hemisphere, the earth’s axis points away from the sun in what we call winter. So, long ago as the days grew shorter and colder, people feared the sun wouldn’t shine on them any more, so they had ceremonies to persuade their gods to bring back the sun. For more than 5000 years people have brought greenery into their homes to remind them of all the green plants that would grow again when longer days would return. Long before the advent of Christianity, ancient Egyptians, Romans, Druids and many others had celebrations at the winter solstice. The Egyptians used green palm rushes to worship their sun god Ra. Romans, whose god of agriculture was Saturn, gave evergreen branches to friends for good luck, decorated their doors with evergreen wreaths and held great feasts for Saturnalia. Druids decorated oak trees with golden apples and candles to represent harvest and light. Mistletoe and holly, thought to ward off evil spirits and celebrate new growth, decorated doors and windows. The Yule log began as a Scandinavian pagan tradition for the festival of Jol or Jul, which is pronounced “yule.”

The Christmas tree tradition as we know it began in 16th century Germany. It is believed that Martin Luther first added lighted candles to a tree to imitate twinkling stars. In America, New England Puritans actually outlawed “heathen traditions” such as decorated trees, the singing of Christmas carols, or any joyful expression at a time of year they felt was sacred. It wasn’t until the 19th century that German settlers in Pennsylvania succeeded in eclipsing Puritan attitudes.

By the 1890s, the tradition of decorated trees in American homes, most using homemade decorations, was on the rise. Electricity in the 20th century, and an idea by Thomas Edison’s assistants, brought about Christmas lights on trees and the tradition was firmly established. The first Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center in NYC was in 1931 and had no lights. These days that tree is adorned with 25,000 lights.

So there is a bit of history on winter solstice celebrations and the Christmas tree tradition in America. However you celebrate, Season’s Greetings to all from Downeast Humanists and Freethinkers!

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It would be nice if it fit on a half-sheet to cut down on printing costs. I think we would need in the hundreds for sure, and I like the parchment idea, I picture them rolled with a bit of red ribbon and a sprig of balsam. And Abbie, we welcome your offer to help or take charge of the scroll production. Lynn and I welcome any and all help!
Abbie M.
downeastah
Bangor, ME
Post #: 187
I think it's a fine text! Certainly not offensive. (I would have been more critical, i.e. mentioning how clever the Christians were in co-opting pagan symbols and rituals for their own, e.g. "Easter" eggs.) A half sheet would probably work, I'll see if I can fit it on with a nice font... might be two sided, or one and a half sides, which would still roll up the short way. Also, a half sheet means less litter on the ground, and one ream of paper would give 1000 scrolls. The printing cost would be minimal. I do the historical society newsletter at Staples, usually 4 whole double sided sheets, usually around $100 for that. Ribbon, however, will add cost. Balsam fir is free at our house! So, shall I do a sample up? And who will help tie the bows and cut the balsam? You could come over to my house and have lunch, hot cocoa, popcorn while we slave away.
Amy E. T.
user 35268572
Ellsworth, ME
Post #: 27
Very nice text, Nancy. I like the historical narrative tone. It is not confrontational at all, which I think is just the right approach for this type of outreach. I would be willing to help with production as long as I have no schedule conflicts.
John M.
JohnMoriarty
Old Town, ME
Post #: 14
Thanks for doing the work on this so far Lynn and Nancy. I like the ideas and am willing to help out any way I can. But I was really hoping to dress up as Elvis and rock around the tree. wink
I haven't heard of any Elvis sightings recently.

I hope he's O.K. ...
Nancy G.
user 8856801
Group Organizer
Bar Harbor, ME
Post #: 324
Amy, maybe we can get next to the Girl Scouts float so you can join us. Abbie, I will bring a copy of this draft to the Nov. 2 meeting for input/changes, so maybe you should wait to print a sample?

So...what we need that comes to my mind:
1. A fir tree and stand (I have a heavy stand) 2. Decorations for the tree: berries, cones, moss, shells, whatever natural materials you can think of. Lynn and I plan to make a large papier mache sun for the top. Maybe people on the float could be stringing popcorn and cranberries? 3. Trailer (I think Jim volunteered his 12x16 one) 4. Truck to pull it (Doug?) 5. White blankets/sheets for "snow" cover 6. Chairs for float riders? Or not? 7. Hundreds of scrolled handouts, maybe in baskets. Abbie has offered to host a scroll-rolling fir-gathering party. 8. Signs for the sides of the float (Happy Winter Solstice?) 9. Lots of boughs: fir, cedar, holly, pine, etc. and wire or some other means of attaching to edges of float. Or is anybody good at making roping? 10. People to ride on the float and people to walk along giving handouts. What else can people think of? Should we just adorn ourselves with greenery or do people have other costume ideas? Lynn suggested woodland animals but I thought that would be very hard to do! What does everyone think? And--who wants to help with what?
Doug B.
user 8862280
Franklin, ME
Post #: 229
Good list Nancy. Yes I will supply the truck and driver. I recommend a non-pruned/natural tree in keeping with our theme. How tall do you think? 6 ft.? I could probably find one that size.
I've been thinking that since this will be our " introduction" to the community, I would recommend keeping the costumes to a minimum. A well done float and scrolls will be message enough to get our point across.

Lynn H.
user 46332842
Franklin, ME
Post #: 3
Hi,
I agree that we should wait til after our Nov. 2nd meeting to print the scrolls. I have lots of balsams, spruces and pines in my yard that we could use for garlands and wreaths. But since I'm a gimp, I'll need help and a spotter/wrangler to go around the woods with me.....Doug is my neighbor...hint, hint.

How tall a tree do you think your tree stand can hold, Nancy? I say the taller, the better. A 6 foot tree will look pretty dinky on the trailer. I have tall trees in my yard and we could cut one.

I'd love to come up to Bangor and make scrolls. I have lots of cloth red/green ribbon I can donate.

I'd also love to get together with folks to make garlands and wreaths....and I'll bake goodies for the work parties. Maybe Kurt and George can give me some gluten-free bakery recipes?

Lynn
Nancy G.
user 8856801
Group Organizer
Bar Harbor, ME
Post #: 325
Lynn, Abbie lives in Harborside, not Bangor...

I wonder if elasticized ribbon/cord would work best for the scrolls? It wouldn't be as aesthetically pleasing, but if elasticized they could easily be re-rolled after people read them and there might be more going home in pockets and purses and fewer discarded on the ground?

The tree stand I have is cast iron. I will look to see what diameter trunk it can accommodate.
Doug B.
user 8862280
Franklin, ME
Post #: 230
I can take a hint Lynn. I'll help with the tree and brush when we're ready.
Abbie M.
downeastah
Bangor, ME
Post #: 188
Lynn, Abbie lives in Harborside, not Bangor...

I wonder if elasticized ribbon/cord would work best for the scrolls? It wouldn't be as aesthetically pleasing, but if elasticized they could easily be re-rolled after people read them and there might be more going home in pockets and purses and fewer discarded on the ground?
Good thinking. I'll check Jo-Ann's this coming week and see what they have along those lines.

If we gather the greenery close enough to the event, Doug could bring the truck and trailer down to my house and we could raid the woods and decorate the vehicles on the same day - or just fill the vehicles for later attachment. I have lots of "charlie brown" trees of various heights, some VERY tall, and plenty of small/medium ones that could be cut off and used "as is" without need of stripping the branches off. We would probably need lots and lots of wire for attaching the greenery to the truck/trailer.

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